Japanese Sesson Grill at Manpuku, Tampines 1

We’ve gone to Manpuku quite a few times, but we still haven’t tried everything the place has to offer.  That’s not so much for lack of opportunity, but lack of desire.  You see, Manpuku as an establishment has slowly been going downhill.

Tampines 1 Opening - 009

When Manpuku first opened, the place was packed all the time.  It was fresh, it was clean, the decor was awesome and the food was a novelty.  Unfortunately, most of the choices weren’t anything to get excited about, especially for the prices they were charging.  Most of it is little better than hawker food.

A few months ago, I’m not sure exactly when, Manpuku’s customer base shrunk to the point that they did away with the charge card system.  It used to be that when you arrived you would queue up to wait for seating and to get a charge card.  You would use the card to pay for the items you wanted from the various booths inside.  Then, before leaving you went through a register check-out lane, kinda like in a grocery store.  That’s where you settled your bill.  Now, you just walk in and pay at the specific booth you want to eat from, either cash or NETS.  If you want to use a credit card you still use the original charge card system.  I suppose that system became more of a hassle than it was worth in regards to having extra employees just to ring up the bills and the owner realized it would be more cost effective to have individual booth workers handle their own cash payments.

With the lower patronage comes lower standards it seems.  The trays are usually covered in a white grime and the eating utensils still have residue on them when you pick them up.  It makes me wonder if they even use washing soap or if they just rinse them with water.  I’ve also had trouble communicating with some of the employees lately.

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Despite these issues, there are still a few gems to be found there.  The ramen from Aoba Hokkaido Ramen is pretty good but we wanted to try something different, so we went to Japanese Sesson Grill, which is in the corner near the MRT tracks.

The food is a bit pricey.  Individual kabobs were between 2.50 and 3 bucks apiece, which seems expensive given their size.  We settled on having a set meal that came with five skewers, rice and miso soup for 13 SGD.  It seemed a fair enough price to pay for what we were getting.

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One good thing about Manpuku falling out of public favor is that it’s less crowded and you can actually have a quiet sort of meal there.  We went to the very corner, overlooking the MRT station area.  It was even a bit cozy feeling there.

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The food itself was better than I hoped it would be.  It’s nothing to get too excited about but I definitely felt that I’d gotten what I paid for and left satisfied.

Kim Garry: Hong Kong Restaurant

The booths looked really comfortable but they were all full. The booths on the other side of the restaurant were roped off, since the restaurant wasn’t that full.

On Wednesday I went to meet my wife for a late lunch and she recommended we try out the Kim Garry restaurant that’s on the basement level of Tampines 1. I’d never had Hong Kong style food before, at least that I know of, so I was willing to give it a shot.

When we were seated by the hostess, she tried to squeeze us into a cramped area along the wall that was already packed with customers, so we went ahead and re-seated ourselves at a stand-alone table where we’d have more room.  If I’m going to pay for food at a restaurant I’d rather be comfortable, otherwise I’d just go pay 3 bucks for food at a hawker and squeeze in there.

This is the back of the restaurant. If I remember right, there was a window in that back wall that opened on the kitchen.
A little Engrish to liven things up.

The decor of the restaurant is really nice.  It had a stylish, modern look to it, but it felt a little incongruous given the types of food.

The borscht soup and the silverware, which was packed in a sealed container.

The food itself was good.  We started out with the borsch, which is a traditionally Russian or Polish soup that has a beet and tomato juice base.  The borsch we were served had chunks of tomato and cabbage in it as well.  I’d never had borsch before, so I have no basis for comparison but it seemed pretty good to me.

Before moving on, one more thing I’d like to point out is how they serve their silverware.  You can see it in the picture above.  It comes in a sealed container and the utensils were spotless, which is just how I like it.

The sauce was delicious and the serving was generous!

My wife had a dish that I forget the name of, but it had pork chops in garlic sauce over spaghetti noodles.  She let me have a bite of the pork chop and it tasted great!

A few pieces of the beef were chewy, and I think I screwed up picking the red wine sauce that’s under the cheese, on the rice, but it was still a good dish.

I went with the beef baked rice with cheese.  There was a choice between a white cream sauce with sweet corn and a red wine sauce.  I went with the red wine sauce, which I think may have been a mistake.  It’s sweetness threw off the whole dish.  If I go there again before departing Singapore, I’ll definitely try a baked rice dish with corn next time.

When it came time to pay the bill, we were happy with the cost.  The food seemed to be reasonably priced.

Overall, the dining experience was moderate.  It’s hard to judge a whole restaurant off of one trip and one dish, but I think this is a restaurant that’s worth going back to at least a few more times to further explore the menu, if only I had the opportunity.

Tampines 1’s Food Court

Every mall in Singapore that I’ve been to has a food court that is, in reality, just an indoor hawker.  The same basic varieties of food are served in the same basic way.  It’s a very convenient way to eat, especially if you’re not willing to spring for an expensive meal in a sit down restaurant.  These food courts (and hawkers) in Singapore often have much better prices than what you’d find in a mall food court in the US, making them a very affordable place to eat.

I’d somehow assumed that Tampines 1 was an exception to the rule that every mall has a food court.  I’d just never seen it.  It’s tucked away in a corner on the top floor, by the pet shop.  We happened to see it when we went to the pet shop to browse for travel carriers for our cats.

The food court isn’t bad at all.  The air conditioning there is ice cold and it offers glassed walls all the way around, which offer an excellent view of the area around Tampines 1.  The iced kacang seemed to be pretty popular, and there was a stall called Kuala Lumpur Roasted I want to try out.  I’m sure it’s just the standard chicken rice / roast pork rice / etc. stall, but maybe they have their own twist to the recipe that’s worth experiencing.

 

The most disappointing thing about the food court is that it’s not designed well.  With Tampines 1 being such a new mall, you’d think they’d have put more effort into making the food court look appealing.  The food court at Suntec resembles a library.  The food court at Vivocity looks like a quaint, village shopping district.  The food court at Ion is decked out in gold chrome and white statues of animals.  This food court is rather bland.  I suppose their reasoning might have been that there are already food courts in the two other malls in the area which also have a bland design, so they didn’t need to put much thought into the one they built for Tampines 1.

Restaurants in the US often have a theme to enhance their appeal, but before coming to Singapore I couldn’t have cared less what a food court in a mall looked like, as long as the food was decent.  I’ve become accustomed to, and spoiled by, the level of detail Singaporeans put into designing their malls.

Yamazaki @ Tampines 1 Mall

With all of the times we’ve walked right by this place I can’t imagine why we never poked our head in to look around.  I guess it was the really fancy cakes they had in the display cases facing out towards the mall walkway.  Tampines 1 isn’t really the place I’d think of when I want good, but reasonably priced, baked goods.

However, with my time in Singapore fast coming to an end, I got curious and looked around inside.  I was surprised to see great prices and a great variety of sweet baked items.  There were things with chocolate cream, custard fillings and apple pies and it was all completely affordable.

We quickly loaded up a tray to take home with us.  We’re gonna have to go on some long runs this week to burn off these calories, but they were definitely worth it!

The custard was better than I’d hoped, the waffle was sweet and tasted like it’d go great in a bowl of vanilla ice cream, and the apple pie my wife picked out was incredible!

If you’re looking for some good quality pastry type items for a good price, I recommend this place.  You can even get some Japanese milk tea or cafe au lait from the cooler to wash down your pastry.

California Pizza Kitchen at KLCC Suria Mall

While we were in Kuala Lumpur over the weekend we decided to go down to KLCC to look around and have dinner.  We weren’t sure what we wanted to eat but as we were looking at the electronic store guide I saw that there was a California Pizza Kitchen in the mall.

Neither of us had ever eaten there before so we gave it a try, with mixed results.

The ambience is very, very nice.  The place has a clean, uncluttered, modern look that was refreshing and relaxing.  Also, the service staff was incredibly friendly and helpful.  No complaints there.

The food wasn’t too bad, I guess, but what bothered me about it is that everything was incredibly oily.

The first thing we ordered was an appetizer.  I think it was called an ‘avocado turkey bacon roll’ or something along those lines.  It’s the first item on the menu under appetizers.  It was described as a fusion between Eastern and Western flavors and was basically a cheesy, gooey, extra greasy egg roll.

While eating the thing the hot grease was running out of the roll all over my fingers and forming a small puddle on my plate.  That’s a definite no go.  Also, the taste of the oil was a bit overpowering, to the point that I couldn’t even distinguish the taste of the avocado.

In fact, in this second photo you can actually see the grease dripping from it.

Shortly after finishing the appetizer the pizza showed up.  We got a thin crust ‘Sicilian’ pizza.  Thin crust pizzas are usually less greasy than full crust pizzas.  Unfortunately that’s not the case with CPK’s thin crusts.  It was oily as well.  We went ahead and finished the pizza, but after the second slice I could’ve walked away from it.

My wife and I have changed our eating habits over the last year and we’re consuming less and less oily foods.  It’s better for us, and less oily foods taste better anyway.  I was reminded again of how good Trattoria’s pizzas are in that 313 @ Somerset mall in Singapore.  CPK’s offering wasn’t even in the same league and cost nearly the same price.